Huntley’s Taylor Jakubowski and Josie Schmitendorf made a good first impression long before their high school volleyball careers started.
“I remember seeing them at camps in seventh and eighth grade. It was like, ‘Can I put them in now?’” Red Raiders coach Karen Naymola said.
Jakubowski, a Seton Hall commit, and Schmitendorf, an Eastern Kentucky commit, have been on the same team for almost every year since they started playing volleyball. The four-year varsity starters became friends in preschool and have played on the same team – with only one or two years apart – since they were 7.
“She went to [Club] Fusion for a couple of years, but I just had to bring her back [to Sky High],” Jakubowski said. “She’s my best friend. She’s my ride or die forever. It’s going to be so weird when we go to college.”
Jakubowski’s mom, Michelle Jakubowski, who coached Huntley from 2006 to 2011, coached both Taylor and Schmitendorf on the Raiders’ junior teams. They have been close ever since.
“I would not have it any other way,” Schmitendorf said. “When I went to my [Eastern Kentucky] camp and she went to her Seton Hall camp, we had to pepper [warm up] with someone else. I was like, ‘This is so weird. I need Taylor back.’”
Taylor Jakubowski, who has been Huntley’s starting setter for 95 wins, entered the year with 2,763 career assists. She has a chance to break the state record of 3,659 assists set by Sandburg’s Sarah Kwasigroch. Jakubowski is currently seventh with 2,916 assists.
Schmitendorf has been a defensive specialist or libero the past four seasons.
Jakubowski, voted team captain all four years, and Schmitendorf both have been leaders by example, Naymola said.
“I see them both taking over all the time,” Naymola said. “Taylor just does it all. She can really take over a game with her setting. She can dump and score whenever we want, or need her to. Josie refuses to let any ball drop. She’ll cut people off on serve receive to take a pass because she’s that confident and that much of a team player if someone else isn’t going to.
“They are fantastic role models for the younger girls in lower levels and a perfect example of what you want your program to look like, act like, and play like. They have been a part of the program for so long, it feels like they’ve been here forever.”
Huntley (7-0) handed Crystal Lake Central its first loss, 25-15, 16-25, 25-15, Thursday to take sole possession of first place in the Fox Valley Conference. The Raiders last won an FVC title when Jakubowski and Schmitendorf were freshmen.
Huntley went an area-best 35-4 last year and lost many key contributors to graduation. So far, the Raiders have not skipped a beat as the last undefeated team in the FVC.
“We worked our butts off all summer,” Schmitendorf said. “Every practice, we come in and we bust our butts. We just keep striving to be a better team every game, every point.”
Huntley is 95-20 over the past three-plus years with three regional titles. Last year, the Raiders’ season ended on their home court against St. Charles East, 26-24, 18-25, 25-19, in a Class 4A sectional final.
That was a hard loss to get over with seven seniors on that team, Jakubowski said. Still, her memories of that match are mostly positive.
“We use it as motivation every day,” Jakubowski said. “We keep pushing at 110 percent. In the third game, we all started clicking. It was something special that we were clicking on the court.”
Schmitendorf called the loss “crushing.”
“It was heartbreaking,” Schmitendorf said. “I think we were pretty much predicted to go downstate … at least we all thought we were. Now, it’s just kind of fuel to the fire for us.”
Thursday’s win over Central has given the Raiders confidence as they find their chemistry.
“We’re still pretty young … and we haven’t played together for that long,” Jakubowski said.
“I think it’s going to be a fun year.”